By Tantra Bensko
I never thought I’d find comfort this way, but no one told me I couldn’t. I just gave it a go, and the ducks are following me down the road now. As they follow me, whenever I look back, the road is being filled with more and more ducks, though there were only two of them following me.
It was the distance traveled that seemed to create the multiplication, and the more curves I follow, the more slight hills I climb, and dips I ease down, the more of them there are, walking along behind us, quacking.
It is nice, and reminds me of my grandmother. She was a darling, and her eyes were like the ducks, and her voice when she spoke about wanting to pack me a cake with those carrots she put on top of them like forests, was something like a quack. We had ducks when I was young, and it is when I meet men who remind me of ducks, or my grandmother, that I feel safe. I feel I can perhaps love them, and let them touch me once I get to know them.
The ducks were my friends, and my grandmother was my friend, when my father and my uncle were not.
When my father and my uncle would come home, they would turn into stovepipes, black, hollow, hard, impermeable, and on fire. I would bang on them, but become blacked by it. They would chase me, pounding their cylindrical selves along bang after bang over the floor, over the ground, even over the water, when I would swim to get away from them. They could float. They could even float into my tears and go into the tear ducts, cylindrical as they were, and go inside my body in ways I could never explain to anyone.
They would only come out when they were ready, and I never knew when that would be. Mostly, when it was time to eat. I would eat under the table, but the table legs were often on their side.
The table legs tended to start banging as well, vibrating, coming closer to me. I was an only child. I could fit easily under the table. But as I grew larger, and older, I would start sticking out from the table, and whenever I did, whatever was sticking out would be naked. I would try to pull back in under the table to hide, but something was always exposed, my skin so pale and soft. I tried to be as thin as possible, and I never wanted to eat anyway.
But I was happy to see the food arrive on the table, as it meant my uncle or my father would be hungry and leave my tear ducts. Once they left my tear ducts, they were no longer stove pipes.
The ducks were soft and our grandmother was soft, nothing like stovepipes at all. They loved me, and now, I make my lovers quack. I ask them to come fly down on my lap, and they will pretend to flap their wings, and waddle. It makes me safe. I pet them and fluff their feathers and run water for them in the living room to play in. The whole living room is water filled now, waiting for them. Sometimes we swim in it together.
One day, I came home and there was a duck that had fallen through the chimney, because the flue was left open. I couldn’t believe it. Somehow, the two didn’t go together. I carried the duck outside to the creek to let it go where it knew it was, where it could find the water. It grew in my arms as I walked, and the trail became longer. It was four hours before we got to the creek, and by that time, the duck was the size of a collie dog. I could barely carry it, and it looked at me with those duck eyes, being so patient, and I didn’t really want to let it go. But I wanted it to be happy and free.
When I got to the water’s edge, I stooped down to put it down and it fell. It fell so hard that it bruised itself, and started bleeding, and I was horrified. I reached down to wipe the blood from its legs with my dress and it became angry, and flew up at my face, becoming larger, going right through my skin, right through my eyes. It was horrible. I never cried so hard even when my uncle was in my tear ducts and I was trying to wash him out. I turned my head to see it pass through my head, but when I did, it was going back the other way. Each time I turned my head to watch it go, it was going the other way. It flew back and forth through my head and I couldn’t stand it any longer. I knew someone else would want to help me, so I called my grandmother.
She was there in a minute, though I had walked so far from the house. She was quick that way. She said the duck just wanted to be free, and I said that’s what I wanted too. I wanted the duck to be free. She put out her hand to keep the duck from flying back the other way. But she put it out too soon, before the duck was all the way through.
That’s when it became stuck in my head. That’s why it is there. And that’s why the ducks are following me. It’s kind of nice. It reminds me of her, and my childhood. I know they are more interested in the duck sticking out of my head than in me. But I don’t mind. Who else is going to follow me so devotedly that they multiply like that? And they quack more resonantly than my lovers I have to train. They come by it naturally. And I like that.
Tantra Bensko publishes her writing widely, in magazines such as The Journal of Experimental Fiction, Fiction International, Evergreen Review, Mad Hatters Review, Bewildering Stories, Rose and Thorn, Cezanne’s Carrot, and many more. She lives in San Francisco.